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Feeding the game day frenzy

What better way to serve a hungry gang than with two crowd-pleasers: meatballs and BBQ? Anyone hosting a big game gathering needs to have recipes on hand that are hearty and tasty, while still being easy to prepare. 

The mini meatball hamburgers are made from fully cooked meatballs crafted from an outstanding, authentic family recipe. The seasoned and lightly steamed meatballs can be warmed up quickly and paired with a tasty sauce for some superstar sliders.

BBQ nachos take game-day appetizers to a whole new level. Made with hickory-smoked pulled pork that’s finished with a sweet and spicy sauce, this BBQ is ready to be warmed up and loaded up with fan-favorite nacho toppings for an appetizer that will have your guests calling for a replay. 

Mini Meatball Hamburgers

Makes 26 appetizers

  • 26 frozen, fully cooked   meatballs (1 pound)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon honey mustard
  • 26 two-inch rolls, sliced in half horizontally
  • 1 ½ cups sweet pickle relish

Preheat oven to 400° F. Place meatballs in an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9-inch pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

In a small bowl, combine ketchup and mustard. Place a heaping teaspoon of ketchup mixture on the bottom of roll. Place a meatball on top. Follow with a rounded teaspoon of pickle relish. Place top half of roll over top. Repeat for remaining meatballs and rolls. Serve immediately on a large platter.

Cheeseburger variation: Place a small slice of cheddar cheese over each meatball.

BBQ Nachos

Serves 4

  • Byron’s BBQ
  • 1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • ½ cup red onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Tortilla chips
  • Whole kernel corn
  • Sliced jalapeño
  • Fresh guacamole
  • Sour cream

On a large, oven-safe serving plate, arrange a layer of tortilla chips; top with BBQ. Sprinkle with cheese, onions, bell peppers, diced tomato, and black beans. Heat in microwave (or in oven) until cheese is melted. Garnish with whole kernel corn, sliced jalapeño, fresh guacamole, and sour cream.


Make sure you are cyber secure

—Jason Alderman

When Ben Franklin famously wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t warning his readers about the perils of cyber crime. But in today’s world of phishing, shoulder surfing, and computer spyware, his advice hits home.

It’s a sad reality that some people will rip you off if you give them an opportunity. Just as you take safety precautions when handling cash, so should you be vigilant when using credit or debit payment cards for purchases, whether the transaction is in person or online.

Here are tips for protecting your account information and avoiding payment card scams:

  • Prevent online intrusions. Use updated antivirus and antispyware software, only download information from trusted sites, and don’t click pop-up windows or suspicious links in e-mails. These can all be tricks to install spyware, which can record your keystrokes to obtain account or other confidential information.
  • Use secure Web sites. When purchasing items online, look for safety symbols such as the padlock icon in the browser’s status bar, an “s” after “http” in the URL, or the words “Secure Sockets Layer” (SSL). These are signs that the merchant is using a secure page for transmitting personal information.
  • Protect personal information. Never provide sensitive information, such as credit card or bank account numbers, passwords, Social Security number, driver’s license, or address/phone by mail, phone, or e-mail unless you initiated the communication. Report requests for personal information to your card issuer by calling the number on the back of your card.
  • Be wary of “free trial” offers. Take time to read and understand all terms and conditions. Pay particular attention to any prechecked boxes in online offers before submitting an order. Failing to uncheck the boxes may bind you to terms and conditions you don’t want.
  • Track account activity. Regularly review credit card and bank statements, and report any suspicious or unauthorized charges to the financial institution or card issuer. Ask whether your credit or debit card offers “zero liability,” which means you won’t be responsible for unauthorized or fraudulent purchases.
  • Transaction alerts. Sign up for e-mail or text message transaction alerts from your bank to keep track of purchases. These alerts are triggered when the transaction meets certain criteria you select—for example, purchases over a certain dollar amount.
    In addition, banks generally will contact you if they spot unusual activity, such as multiple large purchases made within a short time frame or from different geographic areas.

A few other quick tips:

  • Create strong, random passwords, and change them regularly.
  • Shield keypads from the eyes of “shoulder surfers” at stores and ATMs.
  • Review receipts for accuracy before signing, and retain them for your records.

There are many great resources where you can learn how to protect your personal and account information and prevent fraud, including:

  • The National Cyber Security Alliance’s Web site (www.StaySafeOnline.org) is filled with tips for safe Internet use.
  • The Federal Trade Commission’s ID, Theft, Privacy, and Security page offers extensive information about identity theft, privacy, and information security at www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/data.shtm.
  • Visa, Inc. offers VisaSecuritySense (www.visasecuritysense.com), which contains tips on preventing fraud online, in stores, and at ATMs, spotting deceptive marketing practices, and more.

Flash in the Pan
Farm laws and spilled secrets: 2K10 in food

—Ari LeVaux
Some will argue that 2010 was the year that homemade sausage finally came of age or the year the school garden movement exploded. Others will remember 2010 as the year KFC’s Double Down sandwich made its glorious debut. With so many food preferences and priorities, you can hardly make an end-of-year food list to please everyone, so let’s start with what the people think. Some of them, anyway.

A market research firm called Wakefield surveyed 1,000 Americans on what they felt was “the most significant food story of 2010.” Interestingly, the top three stories were threats to food safety: the impact of the BP oil spill on the seafood industry, the nationwide egg recall, and the recall of 35,000 pounds of beef when E. coli was detected at a southern California distributor. (Story #4 was “Calorie count on menus goes national.”)

This public perception makes the current food safety bill especially timely. The bill finally (sort of) got though Congress a few weeks ago before being sent back on a technicality, as part of a Republican endgame on tax cuts. If it doesn’t make it through in 2010, the food safety bill would most certainly pass in some form next year (the Senate vote was a comfortable 73-25), but perhaps not in a form as considerate to small farms.  Following closely on the food safety bill’s heels, the landmark Child Nutrition Act suffered no such snags and is headed for Obama’s desk.

Another important policy move went down in February, when the USDA modified its organic standards for beef and dairy. The new “Access to Pasture” rule, named after an infamous longstanding loophole in the organic standards, finally specified a minimum number of days per year that organic cattle must spend on pasture to qualify as organic. The requirement raises the bar especially for the large producers trying to qualify as organic, forcing them to more truly live up to organic principles. For small milk and meat producers and the consumers who are willing to pay a little extra for their product, this clarity in the law is welcome.

In other bovine product-related developments, the USDA has apparently gotten serious about investigating the many ways that unregulated pharmaceuticals are getting into our meat and dairy. An April report by the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General called out its own agency for its near total lack of oversight in recent decades and made recommendations for reform.

In other livestock pharmaceutical news, the FDA finally released estimates in December, for the first time ever, of total antibiotic use in the nation’s livestock industry. In 2009, that figure was 29 million pounds, most of it for nontherapeutic use—to expedite weight gain, for instance. Such use is partly why there’s an epidemic of antibiotic-resistant staph, or MRSA, in feedlots. The report expresses FDA’s newfound intention to curb antibiotic use in agriculture.

Amid this climate of agency self-examination, my pick for the sleeper story of the year was broken by a Colorado beekeeper named Tom Theobald. Concerned about annual losses in his colonies that had grown to 40 percent, he began to suspect an agricultural chemical called clothianidin that is used in area cornfields. The Bayer-patented neurotoxin has been used in seed coatings since 2003, though Bayer’s permission to market it was granted conditionally, dependent on the submission of evidence that it was safe for bees.

Theobald tracked down a lengthy correspondence between Bayer and the EPA in which Bayer repeatedly stalled and EPA granted numerous extensions until Bayer finally conducted a study. That study was never released and lay buried for years until Theobald, just trying to figure out what happened to his bees, finally found it online.

The study, done in Canada, was conducted so poorly that the results could not be considered conclusive, or even indicative, that clothianidin used on corn is safe for local bees.

Theobald wrote about this saga in Bee Culture in July of this year and soon afterward received a phone call from the EPA, saying his article had led to an internal investigation.

That inquiry resulted in a November 2 memo in which the EPA acknowledged the tragedy of errors that led to the continued, permitted use of clothianidin; it also acknowledges that scientists inside the EPA expressed bee-related concerns as early as 2003, partly because a similar pesticide had recently caused bee die-offs in Europe.

Bees help pollinate about a third of the food grown in the U.S. Theobald says he’s hardly the only beekeeper on the verge of having to fold the tent because you can’t sustain that kind of colony loss for too long.

Perhaps beekeepers and their allies could use a few pages from the playbook of the Center for Food Safety, which has used the National Environmental Policy Act to stop the planting of genetically modified crops in places where they endanger the local environment and the livelihoods that depend on it.

In one case, the Monsanto Company, a U.S.-based agricultural biotechnology corporation, appealed its way to the Supreme Court, each time losing to the argument that selling genetically modified alfalfa before the completion of an environmental impact study would endanger the rights of farmers to grow nongenetically modified alfalfa. In June, the Supreme Court demanded more USDA oversight and the completion of an environmental impact study, before allowing the crop to be commercialized.

Then in December, a federal judge took some sweetness out of Monsanto’s sugar beet division by ordering that 258 very important acres of genetically modified sugar beets be destroyed. These sugar beets were intended to pollinate and produce seeds for the 2012 sugar beet season. Currently, 95 percent of the nation’s sugar beets are grown from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds. The seeds are popular because they save farmers the expense and hassle of spraying chemicals on the crop, since the plants manufacture herbicides internally.

Monsanto produces its sugar beet seeds on several properties in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. This happens to be the worst place in the entire country for that crop because the risk of gene contamination there is so great.

Beet seeds are wind-pollinated, and the Willamette Valley is where most of the nation’s table beet seeds are grown, as well as most of the chard seeds. Both chard and table beets can crossbreed with sugar beets. Judge Jeffrey White ruled that Monsanto was endangering neighboring, nongenetically modified seed industries by letting its genetically modified beets go to seed in the valley.

How appropriate that seeds are the final topic of this year’s recap. Because when we reconvene on the other side of the holidays, it will be time to think about spring planting. Prepare your tea and seed catalogs!

     

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